The Australian advertising regulator has thrown out complaints against Libra’s latest advertising campaign, after more than 600 Australians complained about the advertisements.
The advertisements for feminine hygiene products were blasted as “extremely offensive” for depicting period blood, with others suggesting the advertisement was “not appropriate for children”.
“I can’t even watch the whole ad, it is so disgusting,” another complainant said. “I feel like I want to throw up as I don’t want to see menstrual blood.”
Another person said the ad was aired during prime time television, and that it could trigger conversations with young children that parents wanted to have later.
“I find it absolutely offensive and degrading to all women to show the blood flow and blood splattering everywhere. This is not on!” one other person submitted.
Ad Standards confirmed to Mumbrella that this was the ad which has so far received the most complaints this year.
Libra, however, referenced independent research it had commissioned which found that three-in-four Australian women think there’s a stigma attached to having a period.
It said that the ad aimed to help end the stigma.
“Critically, it was seen as within Libra’s brand DNA – bravely playing its part to normalise periods, breaking down the taboos of periods and menstrual blood - generating conversation across mainstream media that periods are part of everyday life and period blood is normal,” the company submitted.
“Put simply, bleeding and having a period are both normal, so seeing them in pop culture and advertising should be too.”
Ad Standards’ finding
Ad Standards dismissed the complaints, finding that Libra’s #bloodnormal campaign was not in breach of the advertising code.
The advertisement showed women exercising, showering and changing pads while on their period, and also used red liquid to demonstrate the products’ absorbency.
It found that complaints against the depiction of blood were unfounded, although did express sympathy towards those who were upset over the ad being shown during meal times and before children went to bed.
It also threw out accusations that depicting young women menstruating could appeal to paedophiles, noting that all actresses in the advertisement were over 18 and that periods were not sexualised by the ad.
The majority of the Ad Standards panel also agreed that “the advertisement is communicating an important social message and promoting equality and the de-mystification of menstruation”.
Ad Standards also noted that showing blood to promote Libra’s products was not out of line: “The depiction is an accurate presentation of a real physical occurrence.”
Libra’s parent company, Asaleo Care (ASX:AHY), is the only manufacturer of feminine hygiene products in Australia.
It made a net profit of $7.3 million before tax in the first half of 2019.
CEO and managing director, Sid Takla announced the #bloodnormal campaign in August while delivering the half year results.
“Blood Normal... aims to break down taboos, reduce the stigma and shame around periods, and encourage discussion. The TENA Discreet campaign was initiated in the first half with more marketing activity planned for the second half.
“Our strategy to drive growth is now clearly focused on becoming the leader in personal care and hygiene in Australasia, by investing in our brands and putting the needs of our customers and consumers first,” Takla said.
Body positivity as a marketing tool
Libra’s period positivity campaign isn’t the first campaign to trade on the growing body positivity trend.
Dove’s #realbeauty campaign has been going since 2004, designed to broaden the idea of traditional beauty. And it’s made Unilever - Dove’s parent company - a lot of money. It now has a revenue of €51 billion (AU$82.4 billion).
However, the campaign has in recent years been criticised.
A plan to launch a range of Dove bottles mirroring women’s figures was blasted as off-the-mark.
"This is a naval-gazing marketing exercise that patronises women rather than celebrates them," Sarah Benson, a London-based brand strategist said.
"The shapes invite shoppers to judge themselves against what others look like, which surely increases the sense of feeling different rather than acceptance."
But it’s not just skincare: fashion brands are also on board.
Following a sustained backlash against excessive editing of stretch marks, wrinkles and blemishes, brands are increasingly using ‘untouched’ as a way to appeal to audiences.
And H&M’s 2016 She’s A Lady also used advertising to sell the message that women can be anything they want to be - even if it’s not considered ‘ladylike’.
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